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What A Thing!

Take a few minutes to feast on this explanation of “WHAT A THING!” And consider why we must celebrate Christmas!

Ernie's Musings

Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

… Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:5-7)

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and once more, I sense the dilemma of mixing the commercialization of the season by the world with the celebration of the First Advent. Any Christian well taught in Scripture recognizes that Jesus was not born on December 25, but thanks to the Catholics, we are stuck with that date. Regardless of how one feels about that, it is appropriate to set aside a special time to contemplate the magnitude of the miracle that is the Incarnation[1] – God becoming a man.

Consider our leading verse. No other religion

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I’m excited to introduce y’all to my new friend and prolific author Paula Moldenhauer. Paula is not only a Heart’wings’ sister, she’s a teacher, a mom, a publisher (whew, I’m tired already),  and I’m hoping all of you will take a moment to get to know this off-the-charts busy writer-lady. So Paula, are you ready for the third-degree?

Paula Mauldenhauer

You bet–bring on those questions! I’ll do my best. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about God and what He’s done in my life.

Well Ms. Paula, let’s begin with your writing. When did you first realize you wanted to write? And what’s the first thing you ever wrote? (Love notes excluded—of course)

Third grade. Mrs. Duncan’s class. We were told to write a story using personification. I wrote about a pencil and eraser who fought all the time but had to come together to save our classroom. I knew then I wanted to write stories as a career. I still love that little story and used to read it to my third graders when I taught elementary!

Tell us about your family, where you grew up, and where you live now.

In my earliest years we moved a lot. Until fourth grade I was always the new girl in school. Mrs. Duncan’s class was the first year back in the town of my birth, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where I lived until I fell in love with my husband, Jerry, and moved to Denver, Colorado.  Jerry and I have four children, two children-in-law, and as of last week, a daughter-in-law to be! My youngest son proposed the Friday after Thanksgiving from a float in a Christmas parade! It was like our family’s very own Hallmark Christmas movie ending! So fun!

Wow! That must’ve been exciting. Did you cry? I know I would have! How and when was your first book published?

My first book contract was great fun because I received it in front of about 500 of my “best” friends. Barbour Publishing awarded it to me at an American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) conference. My novella, “You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch,” was included in the collection, Postmark: Christmas. That same story was later a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards for novella of the year, blessing upon blessing came its way.  It released in 2012, and that year my best writing buddy and I co-authored and indie-published another book, Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal.

Do you have a life-scripture verse? If so, how did that verse become the one God meant for you?

As a child—actually about the same time I decided to be a writer in third grade—I found Romans 8:28 and clung to it. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose” (KJV).  I loved God, and my parents told me He had called me, so I figured He would work everything out for good in the long run.  There was a lot of turmoil in my childhood home, and I can’t over-emphasize the importance this verse played in my life. It was my life-line through a lot of confusion and hurt.

When I started writing, I bumped into Psalm 32:8 in a devotional book I read. I was praying about my decision to pursue writing as a career, and I asked the Lord if I would be published. Every time I prayed about it, I heard that Scripture in my mind, “I will lead you on the best pathway for your life. I will guide you and watch over you.” I’m not sure what version of the Bible that particular wording is from. I think the New Living Translation is the closest, but no matter which translation I read, the same meaning held me together. God knew best and was leading me. That thought helped me handle a lot of disappointment and struggle.

In recent years the Lord opened Isaiah 61 up to me as a life calling. I paraphrase part of that passage in the mission statement I have for my writing and speaking. “I write/speak to join with the Holy Spirit in setting captives free and healing the broken-hearted. To call forth the true essence of life, person, self. To be a part of the grand Love Story with Jesus.” This is also the passion statement for my indie publishing company, Free to Flourish.

Has there ever been a special moment when you felt the presence of God leading you in a direction and you had no idea where He was leading? Tell us about that.

As a young homeschooling mom, I felt significant disappointment around the fact that raising our four children meant I didn’t have the time to write like I’d dreamed of doing since I was a third grader. The Lord promised me that as I fulfilled His call to mothering and homeschooling, that He would be the keeper of my writing dreams.

A few years later He led me to start a devotional website and to write for an on-line homeschooling magazine. I wrote faithfully for four years, sending a weekly devotion to subscribers, and the Lord grew that list of readers. It was a wonderful experience. Then He asked me to put my writing away for a time and focus fully on my family. In 2015 He prompted me to gather those devotions from years before and to combine them with new content to create a devotional book series, which I called Soul Scents: A Journey in the Son’s Embrace. The Lord sent me a team including artists, designers, editors and formatters. I literally had an artist (Lisa Joy Samson) sit at my kitchen table and offer me cover art right after Carmen Barber, who is now my right-hand gal, offered to format the series! Our team released a new book every quarter of 2016! It was stunning, but He wasn’t finished.

This fall He prompted me to release several fiction pieces, and an indie publishing house, Free to Flourish Publishing, was born. I never planned that. I still write for traditional markets, both fiction and non-fiction, which is the part of the writing dream I prayed and planned for all along. But I never knew I would love managing the whole process of producing quality books. He literally put the opportunity in my lap and wouldn’t let me ignore His leading. I’m just barely glimpsing how the Lord is pulling my life together, making sense of it, and honoring His promise to that tired young momma to be the keeper of her writing dreams.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

I love singing, time with those I love, and walking/hiking in nature.

What is the greatest life changing moment in your life to date?

There is no way I can pick one unless it is the decision I made as a seven-year-old to follow Jesus. It was the best decision I’ve made. The second-best choice is close—marrying my sweet Jerry. But I think life is full of defining moments. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the ones with the greatest long-term payoff!

Please give new writers the counsel you wish you had received when you first entered this writing journey.

I have to refer to your earlier question about life verses. This journey is best lived in reliance on Jesus. For most of us it is not an easy road. Many times, I’ve wished for a more stable life with a consistent salary that didn’t require giving so much of my heart and emotion into my job. But writing is not really an occupation for me, it is a vocation. Maybe as Christian writers we need to wrestle with that. Is writing about goals and career and financial success, or is it about pouring out the grace and truth our Lord pours in. If it is the latter, every day is a success, rejection letter or new contract. (Even if it doesn’t always feel like it!)

Give us a tour of your new release or releases and a glimpse into why you wrote this/these book/books.

This Christmas season I am excited to release a novella collection called Tinseled Tidings. The individual books are available on Kindle, and all three are combined in a paperback collection.

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First in the collection is a re-packaging of You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch. This playful love story grew in depth as my heroine processed something I was processing—what does John 10:10 look like for someone who has walked through a lot of pain. How do you let go of fear of destruction and scarcity and step into the abundant life Jesus promises?

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Book two, The Joy Scrooge, grew out of my very confusing relationship with celebrating Christmas. The hero is grieving and can’t celebrate without some inner healing. My reasons were different, but to step into holiday celebration hasn’t been easy for me either. (You can read about that in the free Advent devotional found at www.paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts.) Thankfully in the story, a spunky pediatrician wearing an elf costume teaches the hero and his son to drop the Scrooge ‘tude and embrace joy! The Holy Spirit is doing that with me.

Tinseled Tidings small Fruitcake

The third book, Fruitcake Fallout, is an historical set in World War II. It grew out of Song of Solomon 4:7, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (KJV).  We’re the bride of Christ. He covered us with His blood and dressed us in robes of righteousness. Sometimes I think we miss out on the beauty of a deeper relationship with Him because we’re hung up on our imperfections—the very ones He cleansed us from. He sees us as altogether lovely—and so of course that’s how the hero of this love story sees the heroine, even though she looks at herself quite differently.

I love this collection because it is light and fun and encouraging. I have crazy costumes, a retired policeman who spouts silly poems, a family legend about a love potion—and then the Holy Spirit shows up as together we write and drop these nuggets of grace and truth into the story. It’s a breath-taking experience for me as a writer when that happens.

A Packaged Deal, releases later in December, and a novella in Barbour’s Bouquet of Brides collection, releases in January.

Here’s a summary of the stories in The Tinseled Tidings collection:

You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch ~ Retired police officer Rick Stanton dons a Grinch costume for the holidays and “patrols” Christmas, Florida to promote the festive town. Everyone falls under his charm except the person he most wants to impress—Postmaster Edie Hathaway. The Grinch is stealing Edie’s heart, but will Edie learn to trust him before he gives up on love?

The Joy Scrooge ~ Spunky pediatrician Krista Fjeld loved Tait Skroog for most of her life, but when Tait and his young son, Timmy, move back to town, she is shocked by the change in her old heart-throb. Embittered by his wife’s death, Tait is paralyzed by fear and grief. Will Krista convince him to embrace life—and her—or is the risk too great for everyone?

Fruitcake Fallout ~ Family legend says that the Preston fruitcake recipe makes young couples fall in love. But when WAC Evelyn Preston sends one to her high school crush stationed overseas during WW II, she snags the wrong private! When Willie Baxter tries to clear up the unintentional deception, will Evie give his poor smitten heart a chance?

Paula, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us. May God continue to bless you and your family! Here are the links to some of Paula’s wonderful books. Check ‘em out—great Christmas presents for friends!

Soul Scents: A Journey in the Son’s Embrace:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B0777GW59P

The link for the Tinseled Tidings collection:

https://www.amazon.com/Tinseled-Tidings-3-Book-Series/dp/B077BWG77T

 

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Images on the TV’s cooking shows set the standard for your Thanksgiving Day centerpiece—a well-dressed, yummy turkey with all the stuffing. You’ve labored for hours chopping, basting, blending to make sure everything’s just right. You slide that buttered, spicy goodness into the oven and aromas you’ve longed to smell all year long soon fill your home, tantalizing and tingling your guests taste buds for the next few hours. Then the moment arrives when you place that browned-to-perfection, lusciousness in the center of your holiday table.

And you wait for the smiles and nods to confirm you’ve met the turkey standard again this year.

But how about that beautiful pre-teen treasure sitting across the table from you. That curly haired, sparkling-eyed image of you—who sets the standard for her presentation to the world each day—TV or movie personalities with necklines down to their belly-buttons and hemlines hoisted to their hips and not enough fabric in between to make a difference?

Just like the preparation of a fine dinner, you have only a few years to set the standard for your child’s presentation to the world, but we’ve become so over-burdened with the affairs of each day, this standard-setting principle falls by the wayside or is out-shouted by advertisements on what the well-dressed young lady shouldn’t wear.

I remember one such morning when our blonde haired, blue-eyed almost-teen daughter raced from her bedroom headed for the front door. Her hand was on the knob when I called, “Wait a minute, young lady. Where’s my hug?”

“Don’t have time this morning, Mom. School bus is here.” And she pulled the door open, without so much as a glance at me, and tried to step outside.

“Michelle…” One word, but she knew I meant STOP!

She turned around and if I hadn’t been so shocked I might have chuckled…might have, but didn’t.  “Get yourself to the bathroom and wash your face, young lady.”

“I’ll miss the bus,” she wailed.

“Then you’d best hurry.” I stood in the doorway like a traffic signal, pointing to the bathroom.

We had many of those mornings through high-school where a change of clothes or a face scrub was necessary before she was allowed to meet her world. But in each of those exchanges she learned about the standard. After all, she was leaving to sit in a building full of hormonal teens—all day. I was not about to allow her to be savored like that naked, browned turkey on my Thanksgiving platter.

The TV screams news of man after man these past few weeks whose moms never taught them about standards. And woman after woman whose moms never taught them about standards either. Women who clothe themselves with dresses too short on each end and stretched to contain no unrevealed detail underneath—walking invitations and temptresses and then they’re shocked when men desire to see, touch, and taste what they advertise. And they whine, I didn’t know what to do. Really? I’ve never met a female who didn’t know how to kick, scream and throw a wall-eyed fit. Or the I was afraid I’d lose my job excuse. Well, slap-me-up-side-my-head and call me stupid…you’d rather spend your days like that Thanksgiving turkey—waiting to be devoured? Do women ever think about turning off the neon-blinking lights and clothing themselves in modesty? Those who play that teasing game are bound to be caught—sooner rather than later.

So, who sets standards of behavior, dress, and appearance? Humanistic teachings have been taught in our public schools over the past forty years and have taught our children It’s okay  to do whatever you want to do, as long as you have a good reason for doing it. This is a direct quote from my children’s text books in elementary and middle school back in the late ‘80’s. And we wonder why teen pregnancies and abortions have soared? We are not animals as their science books teach. We are not required to act and react to every impulse that crosses our minds or our emotions. Those are fiery darts and lies from the enemy of our soul.

I can still hear my mom’s voice. “A girl sets the standard for a boy’s behavior, and her manner of dress establishes the boundaries she expects a young man to respect.” Mama’s words served me well when as a young secretary I worked in a law firm full of politically powerful men and my employer made suggestive comments. The old expression of nipping something in the bud applied. My dress was appropriate. My behavior pleasing to God. And I am eternally grateful for a mother who taught me I set the standard for how men treat me.

Are you teaching your daughters they are standard setters? If not, why not? Or are you a victim too?

 

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly…” (1 Timothy 2:9 NAS).

 

If the kitchen’s not to hot men, we’ll talk about the boys’ standard next week! Stay tuned.

 

 

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I hope you’ll stop by and read my latest article:

https://www.crosswalk.com/slideshows/10-historical-events-every-christian-should-know.html

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DiAne Gates https://www.crosswalk.com/…/10-ways-to-get-your-husband…

On the first Sunday in January, over thirty years ago, our…
crosswalk.com

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Several years ago I published this blog and because of the number of comments, and those I know who’ve lost loved ones this year, I believe it’s relevant today. Let’s talk about your grief…

Fourteen years—fourteen years since that first Christmas without our daughter. We think we’ve healed. The decorations go up, the carols play, and once again we’re swept back into that emotional time warp of holidays past. And once again those deep scars of grief are probed and our hearts ache.

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I don’t see any raised hands, but I see some of you reaching for Kleenex,  I hear your sniffles, and I know your heart is breaking. And I know if this is your first Christmas after the loss of one you love, you’re wishing you could go to sleep before Thanksgiving arrives and stay in bed with the covers over your head ‘til January.

Last year was a major milestone for me, during an unexpected meltdown, a dear friend reminded me, “You don’t have to keep going down the same road.”

For thirteen years I had hauled out the same tree, put everything in the same place, and administered CPR to old gut-wrenching memories. Choosing to cling to the past, choosing to hang each one of those emotionally-charged ornaments that always graced our tree. Choosing to add another year to the process that became more and more difficult. I found out the hard way, it hurts when God had to pry my fingers off the past to give Him the pain in order to move me forward with Him today.

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Two December blogs of 2013, Is Jesus Enough and Storm to Storm—Faith to Faith, https://dianegates.wordpress.com/  recount the details of what happened and how God used my dear friend’s words as the prescription that blessed my heart and changed my life.

This year we have a new tree, many of the same ornaments, but those scab-ripper ornaments are packed away, labeled and waiting for children and grandchildren’s trees, where they will be treasures, not idols. I’ve chosen to take a new, less bumpy road through this year’s Christmas celebration.

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Scripture tells us our emotions mirror God’s emotions because we were created in the image of God. We read of His anger, His forgiveness, and His love. We’re in good company.

But have you ever stopped to consider the turmoil God must have suffered nine months prior to that special night when the Spirit of God overshadowed Mary. For the first time ever, the Father, Son, and Spirit were physically separated. The Son left the realm of His Father’s glory, relinquishing His rights, His comfort, and confined Himself to a human body so you and I and our loved ones might live.

The separation was the Father’s choosing, planned before the foundation of the world, and the Son was willing. Willing to pay the price for you and me and all who choose to believe this price was enough.

But I wonder if knowing all the whys and wherefores made it any less difficult for God? If you had known beforehand when and how your loved one would die, would your grief be more bearable today?

Father, Son, and Spirit knew the necessity of the sacrifice and the cost of the victory—down to every lash Jesus would endure. But as the time arrived for that miraculous conception, did God experience grief over the pain and horror He knew His Son would experience before the final victory was won?

We glamorize and commercialize the manger scene in Bethlehem. There were no wise men from the East that night with the shepherds. They arrived two years later. Our little nativity sets are beautiful. But I’m afraid we’ve lost the awe of the deep sacrifice, and the eternal significance and holy majesty of that night in Bethlehem.

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Dr. Paul David Tripp says: “God’s story is a life-death-life story. And we are in the middle of that story, having just experienced the life-death cycle thus far.”  So, what better time to consider this miracle of God’s story than during the pain and sorrow of our own loss? And what better time to be quiet before God, asking Him to teach and grow us up in His truth? His Son, His only Son, entered this world appointed to lie in a manger, destined to die on a cross, anointed to rise and become our Savior and King. Forever!

God’s amazing life-death-life story.

SILENT NIGHT—HOLY NIGHT whispers in my soul tonight as I think about the night angels brought the message of God’s good mercy and grace rather than His wrath. The night God announced the arrival of the long-promised Messiah. The night the angels sang to bleating lambs and lowly shepherds. But all heaven knew, looking down through the corridors of time, there would be great pain and sorrow before joy would reign forever.

“An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were greatly afraid. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men” (Luke 2:9-14 KJV).

I know your soul groans and you hurt, but in the depths of the dark night of your grief will you accept comfort, knowing God has experienced and understands what you’re going through? I have learned from years experience—yes, you can.

And God’s message to you and me today is the same word He sent to those frightened shepherds. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with you. He completed the Father’s life-death-life plan established before the foundation of the world. He knows your pain and sorrow and is engaged in enlarging your heart’s capacity for His joy through this root-rooter of grief. You can rest in Him. You can rely on Him. And you can trust Him. He loves you and promises to wrap you in His comfort and care ‘til we are once again able to  raise our hands to worship and praise King Jesus!

And remember, He never wastes anything—even your grief!

If you’re struggling this Christmas season go to http://www.griefshare.org and click on Find A Group. Enter your zip code to find a Surviving the Holidays event in your neighborhood.

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“Hey! Are you sure you can hear that?” My husband slid into the passenger seat shaking his head.

“Just zoning…” I grinned and reached for the off button. “…you know how I like my tunes.”

“How could I miss your like?”  He leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek. “Even though you’re scalding my ear drums.”

I remembered that afternoon in the car as I sat in the audiologist’s office this week and heard sounds I hadn’t heard in years. When the doctor slipped the miraculous little hearing device over the top of my ears I felt my eyes pop and I whispered, “Wow!”

Last evening, we sat on the back patio and I realized it had been a long time since I’d heard birds singing. The kitchen floor creaking as I walked—another sound I had been unable to hear—and the neighbor’s dog woofing a warning. The sound of my hand brushing the fabric of my sleeve. The refrigerator motor cutting off and on.

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And I’m sure you’re wondering is she deaf?

No, moderately hearing impaired—over a period of time. But isn’t that how all issues of our senses wane? A little bit at a time. Slowly. So slow we aren’t aware of change. Until we suddenly comprehend we’ve lost something valuable and are caught in the muddle of this mess.

Isn’t this the same process that has deafened Americans?

Years ago, Satan whispered to our generation it isn’t a baby—it’s just tissue—a fetus. And we never blinked. Oh, some folks raised a ruckus, but the rest just rolled over this bump in life, brushed it aside, and kept on going.

A few years prior to that, Satan shouted, God is dead. The only people who heard were those weird flower children—what did they know? But the messages kept coming while those blossom children bloomed children of their own. And we waltzed through the days of our lives while the whispered deception and lies accelerated their cadence. For most of the past forty or fifty years, we’ve either ignored or were too busy or tone deaf to consider the end result—we just couldn’t hear.

Just like my ear drums, our consciences dulled to the rhythm of this age, while our families, our children, our government, and everyday happenstance caused us to drift from truth and right living. But finally, the cries of fifty-seven-million plus murdered babies screamed as loud as our backyard pond’s pump which roared in my ears last night like Niagara Falls.

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Yanked into the stark reality, of Heather’s New Mommy and Daddy’s New Friend, we awoke to a Supreme Court stacked against freedom. Legislators drowning in a quagmire of sin. A constitution shredded. A nation of millennial’s whose values were light-years apart from their parents. With a government racing toward Socialism—a one-world government, and a world utterly strangulated in chaos.

After a few hours of hearing sounds I hadn’t heard in years—including the sound of my own voice echoing in my ears—I was ready to rip off those magpie microphones shouting truth, and retreat back into my world of solitude. But I knew that spelled disaster and death for me and blocked the purpose for which God created me.

“…let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-4 NKJV).

And likewise, if we ignore the state of our families, our nation, our world, our souls will be trapped in the death drone toward hell and we may well spend eternity suffering the consequences of our wrong choices.

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When your hearing diminishes, it affects not only your ability to hear, but smothers your brain’s ability to distinguish and identify sounds. That’s why those subjected to hearing loss constantly say, “I’m sorry… I can’t hear you.” Their cognizance has also diminished and, if nothing intervenes, silence will swallow their ability to respond. And the same thing happens to your heart and your spirit when you refuse to accept truth—your heart and mind lose the ability to hear and understand God’s truth, leaving you to hear only lies and deception.

So, I’m determined to keep those powerful little megaphones inserted in my ears. I will regroup, persevere, and retrain my brain to the clamor and noise of life, the words of friends, the Truth of the Word of God, and rejoin the pace of the race our Lord left me here to run.

How about you? What kind of aid do you need to straighten your life’s course? Will you choose to run the race by the power of God’s Spirit or slink along in the silence of Satan’s deception? It’s up to you, but you must choose while you still have the ability to think and act. Ask God to open the eyes and ears of your heart and your spirit to discern His Truth in all things you face each day. We need only look back through history to remember those who waited too long.

      Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it!

Heart Matters 2

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